Metal detectors have been a common sight in some American state schools for quite some time now and are normally seen in areas where violence, gun crime and gangs are common. This practice has also been suggested for schools in other countries as well, including the UK, which has seen an increase in knife crime. There are many concerns over what affect metal detectors have and whether they are an effective means of security.
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In the aftermath of school shootings like Columbine and Virginia Tech, many have said the increased safety to pupils outweighs any negative image metal detectors might have. If guns or knives are not allowed on campus and are being found at the school gates, there will be zero chance of shootings on campus and schools can catch anybody owning a gun illegally.
Metal detectors do not just pick up guns and knives They pick up any metal objects, including bombs. In this time of heightened alert over possible terrorism, it can easily be argued that increased security keeps people safe and where the safety of children is concerned, the negative aspects of this should be ignored.
It is human nature to assume that if a school has metal detectors, it has a history of gun and knife crime. The issue here is parents are less likely to send their children to a school that looks like it has a history of violence. It is in the school's best interest to portray an image of top quality education. The major debate on this aspect is that if metal detectors do reduce the occurrence of knife and gun crime, then damage to a school's public image is a small price to pay.
Since metal detectors require security guards to search pupils, teachers and their bags, it has been argued that this leads to lateness, as the operation takes too long. There is no definitive study to prove this, although the concept certainly holds true. Again, like the public image argument, it is hard to make a serious case for this when it is offset by the safety of children.
Many have argued it is in fact illegal to search children and their possessions as they come into school, as it violates their basic human rights. In a plain text reading of the law, there is a point to be argued here. Technically, as the children are not suspected of committing a crime, it is an illegal search prohibited in the Constitution. The problem here is that this argument has not been made about increased airport checks in the aftermath of 9/11.
The main issue surrounding metal detectors in schools is a toss up between some legitimate, but lightweight, negative aspects versus the safety of children in school. If metal detectors stop another school shooting, then issues such as the schools image, lessons starting late and even Constitutional legality are unlikely to make any change to the system.
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